Gaze into the infinite

June 10th, 2010 in .Blogs .PC Components .Products
Suds McSoapdish
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Just in time for Computex 2010, our friends at ASUS and Republic of Gamers revealed a concept motherboard dubbed Immensity. Nice name with a definite powerful ring to it, but it’s in the graphics engine arrangement that the main focal point of interest resides.

This board brings to the fore an increasingly frequent question – what’s the difference between integrated, discrete and on board graphics. 

Integrated graphics have been around for years, and when we say integrated, we mean a scaled down graphics co-processor with built-in coding that helps carry out the essentials of video but not high performance jobs like gaming and rendering (or dedicated art software). Integrated graphics have been developed to make sure users can save on the cost of a standalone graphics card, and take care of normal 2D visuals as observed through an operating system such as Windows. In other words, integrated graphics cover all the garden variety applications an average user needs, but do not extend far beyond that. Even now, with relatively powerful integrated graphics, gaming is still not possible on them in any serious capacity. The hardware behind integrated graphics is woefully inadequate in handling heavy jobs.

Discrete graphics, on the other hand, are what you would call an independent, dedicated graphics card. These offer various degrees of performance, depending on your budget, but all feature an autonomous board, memory and GPU (graphics processing unit). By the end of the previous decade, these cards have evolved to the point of challenging and oft times surpassing the CPU as the most powerful processing component in the system, although they are not very adept at non-graphics tasks on their own, even as part of a parallel computing package such as CUDA or Stream.

Motherboards like the concept-stage Immensity (based on the Intel X58 chipset) now bring a new entrant into the jargon – on board graphics. Sounds a lot like integrated graphics, but the intention here is to separate the new category from existing budget solutions. On board graphics intone a dedicated GPU with its own memory allotment, simply bolted on to the motherboard. These GPUs are derived from their discrete versions, so it’s basically transferring the parts of a graphics card onto the motherboard. The upshot is double – there’s less loss of performance compared to the original graphics card design, yet at the same time the energy expenditure is also lower, since we get almost the same performance as two boards – on one.

Of course, an on board version of a GPU isn’t exactly as potent as its discrete version, but it’s close enough and we manage to get pretty much every application under one roof – now including gaming and heavy duty graphics work.

For example, the concept Immensity comes with a nice GPU, and can certainly handle every game out there as of this writing in medium detail, where integrated graphics would not be able to rise to the occasion at all.

Another huge boon with on board graphics is seamless integration with discrete cards. This means that any add on graphics card you put onto Immensity couples with the on board GPU. There’s no cancelling out of each other, the two components combine resources for truly impressive results.

 But Immensity goes one beyond by including the latest version of Lucid Hydra, a technology we covered recently. This enables combining two discrete graphics cards from any generation and vendor, unlike normal CrossFire and SLI, which are limited to in-generation, same-vendor cards. Lucid Hydra on Immensity means the simple math of an on board GPU, which as we’ve said is already quite capable, plus two discrete graphics cards. That’s some genuine power right there.

For overclockers, this board also comes with RC Bluetooth, the remote OC’ing interface that enables tuning from smartphones, and based on recent updates, now also the venerable and ubiquitous iPhone.

Hence the name Immensity, we presume. The potential for experimentation is considerable, and the flexibility afforded gamers, power users and graphics nuts is massive. We’d love to have more on this board to share, but it’s still under wraps, mostly. We’ll do our best to reveal further details as they become available.

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